Those who advocate on behalf of exempt-market dealers (EMD) feel there is plenty of room for more than one national voice, now that the Calgary-based Western Exempt Market Association (WEMA) has rebranded itself as the National Exempt Market Association (NEMA).

WEMA officially change its name to NEMA in January to better reflect the makeup of its membership. Launched in 2011, NEMA now has 182 members across Canada – in all provinces and territories except Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut.

The other national advocacy organization in the exempt-market sector, the Exempt Market Dealers Association of Canada (EMDA), based in Toronto, was founded in 2002. It has 347 members.

Some EMDs and individuals are members of both associations.

The EMDA welcomes the second national voice speaking on behalf of EMDs as a positive step, according to Geoffrey Ritchie, the association’s executive director who is also national director, compliance and risk management, with BMO Harris Private Bank in Toronto.

“There’s lots of room for new voices in the exempt market around the country,” Ritchie says. “Certainly, there are so many different industries [issuers and dealers] that rely on the market [that] the more attention that can be given to the exempt market, the better.”

Meeting members’ needs

Although some financial services industry professionals might find it confusing that there now are two national associations for EMDs, Craig Skauge, president of both NEMA and Exempt Experts Inc. in Calgary, believes it’s more important that NEMA continues to grow in order to suit the needs of its members.

According to an email from Skauge to Investment Executive: “While we realize this change will bring some minor challenges and a bit of confusion, we weren’t willing to stunt our association’s and the [sector]’s growth because we might step on a few toes. The concern that prompted us to even form WEMA was the bigger challenge for the exempt market if the sole voice representing it wasn’t loud enough. [Exempt-market] members will have to decide whether they align themselves with one association, both or none.”

Skauge argues that just a little due diligence will reveal the differences between the two organizations, in terms of management and vision.

“It’s really no different from the way many other organizations are [also] different,” Skauge had said in a previous interview. “MacDonald’s and Wendy’s are different because different people run them and they have different ideas. We’re the same way.”

Rather than focusing on what the other organization is up to, both associations intend to focus on what their members are asking for.

@page_break@ “We’ve never concerned ourselves with the activities or mandates of other associations,” Skauge’s email continues. “We’ve only focused on what we can do for the exempt market, and our members in particular. Our strength comes from our members, so we look at it as us bringing a lot of additional voices to the national table and not just one.”

The EMDA also is not focused on what NEMA is doing or intends to do, says Ritchie. Instead, the EMDA is focused on providing a deep understanding of policy, regulation and sector issues to represent its members.

Education is key

Both associations have many initiatives planned to help their members deal with the challenges associated with operating in the exempt-market space.

In the near term, NEMA will be pushing for additional prospectus exemptions in Ontario, gathering information and forming a response on a couple of matters before the B.C. Securities Commission and putting together national educational initiatives.

The EMDA also will be making education a priority in the coming year, as well as promoting the success stories in the exempt market. “[There is] no shortage of things going on,” Ritchie says. “It’s a pretty exciting time, actually.”

For instance, Ritchie says, the EMDA will offer a continuing education program in addition to its lobbying efforts. This program will provide information on a number of topics. An upcoming session this spring, for example, is aimed at chief compliance officers.

The EMDA also is helping to develop an exempt-market products course in partnership with the IFSE Institute, which is owned by the Toronto-based Investment Funds Institute of Canada.

“[Our members] want access to information,” Ritchie says. “They want help with compliance issues. They want help with regulatory issues. They want education.”

The EMDA plans to promote the success stories from the exempt market this year by giving out its second annual Exempt Market Deal of the Year award.

Celebrating key sectors of the exempt market, Ritchie says, such as mining, real estate and technology – offers a chance to “raise the bar” of the sector as a whole.

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